3 Stores For The Rest Of Your Life

(Then again, a french supermarket might be a good idea, as you’d never lack for sweets…how DO they stay so slim?!) Paris, France

If you could only shop at 3 businesses for the rest of your life, what would it be?

This is, shop for EVERYTHING. Food, clothes, makeup, hardware, technology, EVERYTHING !

We humans love to choose our “favourites”. Favourite food? Favourite television show when you were seven? Favourite shade of white to use for a wedding dress? No matter how trivial, we like to declare our personal favourites.

I’ll start off with mine:

  • Any of the huge European general stores/hypermarkets. Carrefour, etc.  Like a Wal-Mart (which I refuse to step into or support), but way better quality products. Food, toiletries, you name it….
  • Bloomingdales. What can I say, they carry everything you could possibly need to outfit yourself for any situation, casual or formal.
  • Apple. Because unfortunately my two other options don’t carry technology products. Maybe I should say some other technology store that as more variety, in case I want other things? Ok, I was a weak one with this choice.

But then again, there’s also Etsy….where you can buy clothes, collectibles, craft kits to entertain you forever…and vintage porcelain at www.etsy.com/shops/japonicanyc

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Nostalgia & Quality

(I think the graffiti only adds to the character, don’t you?) Bushwick, Brooklyn New York

Monday morning musings about the tie between nostalgia and the quality of products

“Antique-design table”. “Retro hand-mirror”. “Converted radio flyer planter”. Every which way you turn, something harkens to days past, when it may in fact be brand new.  Nostalgia for days gone by, your younger years, has always been present. However, I feel more and more, in pop articles and articles generated by the bunch, that people are yearning for yesteryear. Why does this seem more prevalanet? Times were always simpler, inventions and such have always existed.

This is a topic that has been long debated, and I won’t profess to having any answer. However, in terms of nostalgia pertaining to home products, this is a lot easier to pin down.

Quality is the key word to this nostalgia for old products, buildings and designs. As I walk along Fulton Street in Brooklyn, I see so many old brownstones being gutted, just empty shells standing, while other less desirable structures are merely bulldozed and new, generic, bland looking buildings are erected in what feels like mere minutes. No decorative detailing, and everything looks eerily temporary, despite the steel beams and cement.

Technology, although wonderful with all we can accomplish, has made the process of mass production possible. The more of something that exists, the less desirable it becomes, as it is not rare, unique. We humans seem to crave uniqueness, why, maybe because we have less and less to worry about. “Too much of a good thing” is perhaps true. If you were to all of a sudden possess 300 Sailor Moon Sculptures, the original would immediately lose its value, its prestige, when before it was as rare as the “Heart of The Ocean” (diamond necklace from Titanic, duh!)

When something is handmade now, we see it as a gift from the heart, something special, something that will ultimately cost more money because it took much more time and skill to produce.  It is something unique, as no mold is being used, no two products can be completely identical.

As time goes by and the technology is honed and perfected, it somehow makes products less and less respectable, despite often improving certain aspects about them. New materials and ways of using old ones to maximize profit and minimize costs are being produced. For example, polyester is cheap, and man-made, and although can imitate silk, it does not hold a candle to the quality of silk, no matter how nice the drape is.

The items hailed from simpler times, when the current worries of the modern world did not exist, or were just a far off future issue that were not actively on our minds. With worrying about whether your Instagram post was filtered enough or if the Starbucks new drink is going to have too many calories, it is nice to rest your eyes on something from a time where you had to wait by the landline phone to hear back from someone and milk cost 10 cents, not 8$ at WholeFoods. Sub-conciously, they sooth us.

Maybe when all of the similar looking brownstones were developed, people felt the same way about them .”Oh look, another 3-window façade with a flowered scroll etched in the cement above them. Not again!” Just because we see NOW that they were quite beautiful structures, doesn’t mean that when they were new, people thought the same thing.

Perhaps it takes a lot of time to pass to realize what we had, to adjust, to accept, to realize that something is not all that bad. Maybe sixty years from now we’ll think that that clothes from Forever21 are something to clamor for, but in the meantime….. I’ll just shop for vintage porcelain dinnerware and other cute vintage items on www.etsy.com/shops/japonicanyc

The Trip-Ups (literally) Of Living Urban, With Pinterest Dreams

(just hit my elbow on that antique rocking horse again, ugh!)

Since discovering the floral-filled world of Etsy and Pinterest for my shop, I have been blown away buy the variety of merchandise for sale. There is a never ending supply of things that you could outfit your house with that even Martha Steward would raise an eyebrow at. Retro ice cream maker! Antique library stamp (to stamp my kindle?) The inner mom in me found me with a super modern tee-pee in my shopping cart- meant as a kids toy. At 5’7” it’s half my height. For where? The fire escape?

While some of these items seem blatantly unnecessary (I can just squeeze the lemons myself, really, I need to keep up these arm muscles), I’ll have to admit, I stare in wonder and think about going and unfreezing my credit card from that 20 pound block of ice to go on some wine fueled shopping spree. I would definitely be the hostess-with-the-mostess (forgetting that the friends I do have always adamantly refuse to come to Brooklyn, despite it being the place du jour. Thanks Lena Dunham!).

Then I remember, that I DO live in Brooklyn, and although my apartment is more spacious then a studio on York and 75th,  it is still not quite conductive to creating the amazing spreads that feature a different cloth napkin for every type of holiday imaginable that I see all over Pinterest. “I want this!” I cried ecstatically, only to meet the furious glare of my sister. “We downgraded my bed to a twin kid sized bed, and you want an antique television BAR?!” There goes the dream of literally watching bottles like the dancing wineglasses in Beauty and the Beast.

What should I do? Move to the country, or some suburbs where rent is affordable (certainly not Long Island, where the prices are mostly on par with Manhattan) so that I can make my Pinterest Dream Home? Am I missing out, while women my age in Wisconsin have their own craft rooms where they create hand knit owls for their kids playmates? I tried to make my bedroom my own art studio, and the one cat decided that the boxes of supplies were her new bed, and the other one decided the recycled metrocards looked better flying around the room. Dreams of a studio vanished.

Should I trade in my shoebox? When I could be living a Pinterest Paradise elsewhere, not tripping over your bed or your coffee table or shoeboxes (since the shoes cost as much as your rent and you insist on keeping them pristine, even though technically you wore them out in that blizzard the other night). Sometimes I wonder. I look wistfully at those accounts, those large homes with dining rooms! Living rooms! Dressing rooms! Basic, hallways and coat rooms and closets! But where would I buy batteries (don’t ask) at 2am, and find every cuisine in the world?

In life there are certain trade-offs, you get this, but you don’t get this. I guess you just have to decide which means more to you personally, at that moment. The motto now is, acquire what you need, survival way, not what you want. I will have to quell my desire for vintage porcelain cats after all, and maybe just squeeze the living, breathing ones I have.

Not quite ready to (ever) leave New York, so  I guess I’ll just have to stick with my tiny collectibles and admire the holiday spreads and handmade feathered wind chimes from afar, and just sell them on http://www.etsy.com/shops/japonicanyc

Tchochke Nation

Forget about Fast Food Nation. As Americans, we are a consumer nation. A hoarding nation, in less delicate terms. What’s with all the teacups? Yes, perhaps due to our (well, once) growing economy, we have over the years amassed a staggering amount of tchotchkes. I recently opened an Etsy shop, (closeted avid porcelain tableware collector) and realized just how far down the rabbit hole we have gone in terms of acquiring “stuff”. Is it called hoarding if each piece is not take-out containers and old balls of string? Hey, that….mug from MSG has a story I swear! I’ll go ahead and call it organized hoarding, to take some pressure off of myself and my treasure trove.

The term tchotchke is derived from a Yiddish word, which means a pretty, useless woman; in blunt terms: a trophy wife. Which is vaguely disturbing, but we Americans obviously shanghaied it and used it pretty much for the same purpose (useless decorative trinket), only in softer, less offensive terms, as we refer to inanimate, porcelain cats as tchotchkes, not living breathing humans. So have you. I’ve always been fond of the term, not sure what that means about me.

Maybe we should start with the history of human life and possessions. As nomads, cave people, for years, we moved from place to place. If you couldn’t carry it, it was not coming with you. Point blank. Also, being a primitive ‘society’, very few items were made. It was only when humans transitioned, staying put to plant and harvest crops, that we could begin to acquire more then we needed. However, during those times, humans did create the cave art that has been found, the little carved statues.

Tchotchkes are perhaps popular because originally they were a sign of wealth. As a person, you had the items you needed- pots, knives, dresses, hammers. Not even that. Immigrant families often shared silverware and such, just like in Bread Givers, a novel about Jewish immigrants in 1920’s New York. People on the Oregon Trail eventually abandoned their mementos, their heirloom grandfather clocks, as the oxen gave way, leaving behind an American Pickers wildest dreams, a trail of stuff. They survived with the bare minimum, because they had to.

If you had a porcelain doll, such as the popular Dresden dolls (from Dresden Germany- I couldn’t resist the lure and bought one when I visited), it meant that could afford items that were unnecessary, it was a sign of stability, a sign of at least minimum wealth (wealth being used as money, not as we use it generally). Then factories and technology to mass produce came along, and, at least in Europe and the United States, economies grew and people had more discretionary income to spend on whatever suited their fancy. That Virgin Mary statue? Sure go right ahead- add it to your collection of 50 others. Guinness!

Tchochkes often hold memories. A trip to Bosnia, I purchased a brass cat, which I eyeball on a daily basis, looking into those green eyes and thinking about how I was sweating in the 100-degree dry summer, touring mosques. Other tchotchkes are family heirlooms from a beloved grandmother, or perhaps a gift from a close friend. They can be useful- such as elaborate photo frames, clocks or pencil holders, salt and pepper shakers, even awards. But mostly, a true tchotchke has no purpose; it is just “a thing“ that we place high importance of.

They say that “home doo-dads” and Etsy stuff, are the things that women buy when they no longer care about impressing a beer belly husband, or their appearance. When they’ve given up on little dresses, either for themselves or for their children. Or when they’re single, and have nothing else in their lives to hold onto, lest that Tinder date, they fill up their homes with little porcelain angels, crosstitsch pillows and enough “Live Laugh Love” handcrafted signs,o army a gang of teenage girls (who also, interestingly, seem drawn to those inspirational signs). Quotes that they don’t even live by, but stare at wistfully.

Why not men? Men don’t seek out home décor, at least not in the same way that females do. Sure, I’ve met men who love antiques and vintage items, maybe an old tin firetruck, but they’re not out there purchasing potpourri containers and Sea World Memory Plates.

They decorate our homes, add a bit of colour to our office cubicles. They are the solution to what to give Aunt Birdie as a Christmas Gift. They make us smile, they are there if we need to throw something, and there when it’s moving day and you’re suffering a broken ankle. They’re art, they can even make us think. Just because things don’t have a crucial purpose, maybe that’s why we like them. We need something that just relaxes, that reminds us that the world is not so go-go-go all of the time. Maybe we hoard them because we don’t have to, that’s the beauty of something you don’t need. A frivolous want we can indulge in for 99 cents on eBay.

On that note, I’ll keep collecting my vintage plateware, I’ll not ship my heirloom antique makeup containers to Staten Island (dump), and I’ll keep smiling nostalgically at my paintings from Spain. Vive le tchotchke! Visit JaponicaNYC shop on Etsy to see my obsession.